Montreal blue-collar workers are speaking out and speaking up, taking their pressure tactics to the next level. After trying to bargain a contract for more than two and a half years, they have had more than enough of the City’s inertia at the bargaining table.
The union has sent notice to the Ministry of Labour of a rotating strike that will begin January 25th and end on March 5th. The principle of the strike is simple - but it is a first on the Island of Montreal. The City has 19 boroughs and central services. Manual workers will take turns walking out, beginning with the Borough of Ville-Marie, for a 20-day cycle that will be repeated twice, until the strike’s anticipated end on March 5th. “This way, we will maximize the impact on local government while minimizing consequences for the residents. We do not want to take the population hostage, but we need things to move; we are patient, but enough is enough,” explained the president, Michel Parent.
For the union, the main issue is excessive contracting out of jobs. “Despite the City’s praise for the good work of its blue-collar employees, we are in fact seeing a constant erosion of municipal services,” indicated Michel Parent. “In some boroughs, if things are allowed to continue as they have, everything will go to the private sector: blue-collar workers will cease to exist. We might as well close up shop!” For example, in boroughs like Ville-Marie, 70% of snow removal from streets is done by private firms, which costs 30% more than if it were done by internal services.
In addition to cheating tax payers, using private firms leaves the door open to nepotism, collusion, and gift giving to friends of the party in power. The union points out that the series of scandals that have tarnished the Tremblay administration in the past months have all been related to contracting out and the privatization of certain activities. The blue-collar workers’ union thinks that the City must find ways of operating and accomplishing its mission on its own. For workers, that means getting confirmation of permanent status for the 600 who have been working full time for years, but still have temporary status. “In this way, we protect our jobs and public services, and we put up a barrier to prevent the privatization of our city,” concluded Michel Parent.